3 Categories of Yogic Meditation
There are three general categories of yogic meditation and awareness practices that can be combined to form a comprehensive yoga routine. The first category may be referred to as the mind-body practices, and hatha yoga is included in this class of meditations. The second kind of yogic meditations are the subtle energy practices and these include pranayama, visualizations, and mantras. The final style of meditation involves self-inquiry, jnana yoga, and satsang. The remainder of this article will discuss each of these types of awareness practices in greater detail.
The Mind-Body Practices
Characteristic of these types of practices are conscious moving routines that bring the mind and body into a state of unity. Moving the body in a state of deliberate attention and awareness allows the mind to be concentrated and to enter into a meditative state. Hatha yoga is the most popular form of mind-body practices, but in the whole field of the yogic traditions we also find moving meditations in kundalini, kriya, and the tantric arts.
The moving meditations are great for beginners in yoga and meditation because the movements give the mind something to focus on. When done in a rhythmic routine, the mind is able to settle itself through the movements and therefore enter into a meditative state. Since a common theme in all moving meditations is returning to the natural state of mind-body unity, a great amount of benefit and peacefulness can be found through these practices.
The Subtle Energy Practices
In these practices the focus is on the subtle energy (prana) and techniques such as pranayama (breath control), chanting mantras, and visualizations are all working with subtle energy. In these forms moving the body is not required and often these practices will be done while sitting still. Since the breath is a subtle form of energy that we cannot see, but has a profound affect of our lives and state of awareness, pranayama is one of the main forms of this class of meditation techniques. Characteristic of many forms of pranayama are building, strengthening, or moving internal energy with the breath. When these methods are mastered deeper and more prolonged meditative states may be experienced.
The Causal Practices and Jnana Yoga
These types of exercises are in some way the most profound forms of awareness practices, simply because they have the direct ability to cut through the illusions of mind that prevent us from abiding in our True Nature as Radiant Consciousness. Practices such as jnana yoga, self-inquiry, and satsang bring into question the limited identities that we have about ourselves as ego consciousness. Through questioning the assumptions of the ego mind, these techniques assist us in observing that we are more than the limited states of ego consciousness that manifests as self-contracted thoughts and emotions. In these systems of practice there is an underlying belief that the True Self is always present and accessible at any time. If we accept that one’s Buddha Nature is ever-present, we then need to ask the question, “What is it, that is now preventing you from the direct realization of your ever-present Buddha nature?”
Please reflect on this before continuing to read.
The question just asked is a simple demonstration of how these methods work to shed the mind of whatever is preventing one from residing in the liberated state -Now. Often when I ask this question in my classes people will go silent for some time and the whole energetic feeling of the room will change to one of deep silence, stillness, and spaciousness.
When I do get an answer to the question, “What is it, that is now preventing you from the direct realization of your ever-present Buddha nature,” I will often hear responses like thought, emotions and mind. When a response is given to the question it provides insight into what is occupying the mind and preventing one from Self-Realization – Now.
From the answers that arise from these types of questions, one may learn to deconstruct, dis-identify from, and observe the self-contracted illusions of ego consciousness.
While yoga has gained much popularity in the West, it amazes me that so much attention goes to hatha yoga. In a typical yoga class, most of what is taught is hatha, with brief sprinklings of pranayama and meditation. Perhaps the reason for this is that the mind-body practices are most accessible to beginners and provide a convenient vehicle for exercise, relaxation, and stress-relief. However, if we want to deepen our practice and improve our overall level of happiness and joy, the other two categories of yogic meditation deserve our attention as well.